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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your Own Personal Jesus

I got an awfully big response a while back when I wrote about what is expected of us during Lent. I always get a big response from my Lenten musings, but the big hubbub wasn't exactly to due my theological or philosophical point of view. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was all about the pictures I posted of Jesus.

They gave everyone the creeps.

I will admit, my goal in using them was met. Lent isn't about an easy going Jesus, sliding around the office giving everyone high fives and shoulder rubs. Lent is to align ourselves with the suffering part of Jesus.

There are lots of part of Jesus. Advent and Christmas is about the human side of Jesus, for example. The Word made Flesh and dwelt among us. Pentecost is about the Divine side of Jesus.

It did give me pause, however, that everyone found the modern Jesus pictures so creepy. We do have to ask ourselves why. I think there are several explanations.

The easiest one is that Jesus is just so....eighties...in these pictures, with His pastel shirts and high rolled up sleeves and His ancient desk top. Not that we'd be any happier to see Him with an Iphone. Still, I maintain that eighties fashion is depressing. I think we might find a forties, or fifties Jesus much more palatable. Those styles are now timeless vintage wear.
Like my outfit!

We don't want to see Jesus stuck in the eighties, like mullet Jesus here.

But I think the whole "get that disconcerting picture of Jesus outta here" reaction goes much deeper.

I find that people have a very deep connection to their pictures of Jesus and how they picture Jesus.

For example, this picture of Jesus came out in the nineties. I think it was in "Scientific American" or some such magazine that a group of scientists tried to figure out what Jesus might have looked like, being a Jewish man living in 1 AD. While there wasn't a massive recoiling of the Peanut Gallery, the portrait did not catch on, to say the least.

I think it's because He doesn't look very bright or very kind. We know that Jesus was very smart and very kind.

Of course, the polar opposite of that picture of Jesus is the one with which we are most familiar. He's the one every Grandma has had in her bedroom for a more than a hundred years.
To be honest, I'm not fond of this portrait either.

I call Him "mosquito bite Jesus", because He looks to me like the kind of guy mosquitoes love to bite. We have pictures of Him at every age, too! I can't think that I've ever seen a Baby Jesus in a manger with dark hair! Have you?

My favorite Jesus portraits are along these lines. Here he looks like He has some energy to do all that walking and talking and have all that compassion and love for everyone. That really takes a lot of energy. It's really hard to be compassionate when you're tired.
Isn't it?

Your job during this season is to picture a person who suffered terribly on your account and never complained except to mention, right at the end there, that He was thirsty. Suffer a little with Him and toughen up.


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting "scientific" portrait of Jesus ... I am on an ongoing quest for religious art that portrays Jesus and the Holy Family as looking ... Jewish ... or perhaps Palestinean. There is no shortage of blond Jesus and Mary artwork. There is African Holy Family artwork. Asian, too. Guadalupe artwork gives us the native American feeling. Even the Bishop of Northern Alaska has encouraged Eskimo Holy Family artwork. But I cannot find Palestinean-looking Holy Family artwork. If anyone has a lead on something like this, please post it!

Poops said...

I laughed so hard at Mullet Jesus that I snorted iced tea out my nose.

No worries, I offered my suffering up to the souls in Purgatory.

Julie M. said...

I just went through 40 pages of Google Images to try to find the picture of Jesus that I remember from my Catholic grade school in the 80s: http://www.whiterockchurch.org/wrcc/images/Jesus1.gif

My grandma definitely had the grandma-Jesus, though. My other grandma, who's still living, has the one of Jesus praying earnestly on a rock.

I can appreciate many different Jesus images, but what rubs me the wrong way about these "modern" ones is that Jesus is doing trivial things. While the real-life Jesus certainly did ordinary things, it's weird to think of Him doing something so silly as texting.

Loren said...

I just realized why so many people were starting their replies with the saint of the day. I had never looked far enough to actually read the part under "Leave your comment." So now that I know there is a pop quiz in the comment section, I'll have to say that the saint of the day had two (2) feet.

Poops said...

And while I'm thinking about it, I think what makes the Modern Jesus depictions off-putting is that his clothes look modern but he still looks like one of the Doobie Brothers. Why is that? Will we not recognize him without his beard and long hair? Maybe that's why so many people think he was just a nice hippy that preached peace and love, duuuuude...they thought he was in a band.

Anonymous said...

Look at the Divine Mercy picture of Jesus. Jesus asked Sister Faustina to have it painted. So it cant to be too far off the mark!

Jennifer said...

I somewhat agree with anon above who says the Divine Mercy image must be somewhat close *except* even in that portrait Christ looks most decidedly European. I've always wondered why so many portraits of Christ show Him with that strange double-pointed beard. None of the bearded men I have known or seen have theirs groomed into two sections like that. Some of the mystics have said that Christ was unusually beautiful in His perfect humanity, yet the people who knew Him as He was growing up saw nothing out of the ordinary about Him. "Isn't this the carpenter's son?" It would not at all surprise me if He really did look like the "Scientific Jesus", at least when He was not revealing His glorified Self.

Anonymous said...

What you call "mosquito bite Jesus," really an image of the Sacred Heart, is actually one of my favorites. He looks so nice in that picture, kind of smiling but not goofy-looking. I have it in my room and I'm only 21 -- definitely not a grandma!

The "scientific" Jesus doesn't sit well with me. I like to think that, as 100% human as He was, He was still really handsome. I mean... He's God. If the Holy Eucharist can look so beautiful and it only looks like bread, then how much more beautiful must Jesus have been when he was walking the earth in His human body?

mph said...

I imagine He was unusually beautiful because His Godliness shone through and His features weren't affected by the usual human weaknesses the rest of us have.

Anonymous said...

St. Faustina cried when she saw the finished painting of Jesus because it didn't capture how beautiful He is.